Aims: To describe the relation between emotional stress and cardiovascular events, and review the literature on the cardiovascular effects of emotional stress, in order to describe the relation, the underlying pathophysiology, and potential therapeutic implications.
Materials and methods: Targeted PUBMED searches were conducted to supplement the authors’ existing database on this topic.
Results: Cardiovascular events are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the developed world. Cardiovascular events can be triggered by acute mental stress caused by events such as an earthquake, a televised high-drama soccer game, job strain or the death of a loved one. Acute mental stress increases sympathetic output, impairs endothelial function and creates a hypercoagulable state. These changes have the potential to rupture vulnerable plaque and precipitate intraluminal thrombosis, resulting in myocardial infarction or sudden death.
Conclusion: Therapies targeting this pathway can potentially prevent acute mental stressors from initiating plaque rupture. Limited evidence suggests that appropriately timed administration of beta-blockers, statins and aspirin might reduce the incidence of triggered myocardial infarctions. Stress management and transcendental meditation warrant further study.